Are You HIITing it TOO Hard? (Why balance is key)

HIIT training

While it may indeed be tempting to do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) every day of the week (because there are so many benefits!), is it really a good idea? The truth is that balance is key, and here’s why.

What Is HIIT Training?

You have undoubtedly heard of cardiovascular training, and you may have even heard of HIIT training, but maybe you haven’t fully uncovered what the differences are and why it’s important to use both forms of cardio.

As mentioned above, “HIIT” is an acronym for “high-intensity interval training.”

What does this mean? “High intensity” refers to all-out effort. For example, sprinting or jumping rope as fast as you can, a very high level on a step machine, or sprinting on a cycling bike. High intensity is great, but it’s simply not sustainable for more than a few minutes. This is where the “interval” part comes in. When you use high-intensity training and sporadically intersperse steady state slower cardio (a slow walk, gentle jog, or low level on a machine), you can reap the benefits of both worlds.

Typically, you’ll have measured shorts bursts of time where you employ high-intensity training (15 seconds to 1 minute) coupled with longer sessions of “rest” (such as a slow walk) where you allow your heart rate to return to a more normal state. Rest intervals are usually anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This cycle continues for 15 – 20 minutes to complete a HIIT training session.

What Are the Benefits of HIIT Training?

High-intensity interval training is tough, but it has some real benefits.

  • It’s efficient—you can fit this workout into your busy schedule. Because it’s so quick (HIIT workouts typically last from 4 – 20 minutes), it’s hard to find an excuse not to get it done.
  • It’s effective—if you want a “shortcut” to burning off body fat, this is it. Studies show this type of cardio exercise is an exceptional way to get real results quickly and radically improve your cardiovascular capacity.
  • Burn more calories longer—by using a HIIT-style workout, you fire up what is known as “EPOC.” EPOC, which, according to Wikipedia, is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, known as “afterburn”) is a measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity.”
  • Convenience—you can get this workout done quickly and easily almost anywhere. You can easily fit this type of quick workout into your schedule, and getting it done at home is a breeze as well.
  • Maintain muscle—yes, this type of workout will help you preserve your hard-earned muscle mass. Instead of doing endless boring cardio sessions and burning off body fat and muscle, with HIIT, you can focus exclusively on shedding the body fat while maintaining your muscle mass.
  • Conditioning—after just one HIIT session, you’ll start to see just how in shape you’ll be with continued HIIT workouts.
  • Improve health—studies show using high-intensity interval training as little as three times as week can help you improve your health markers across the board by regulating your blood sugar levels, lowering your blood pressure, and even helping you reduce stress.
  • Burn fat—studies also show you can burn more fat in less time with HIIT workouts. In spite of a 45% lower training volume overall when compared to people doing regular steady state cardio training, HIIT workouts have the potential to burn just as much fat (or more!) than regular steady state workouts.

Can You Do Too Much HIIT Training?

Now that you’ve seen all the massive benefits to doing HIIT training, you may be tempted to start doing this type of workout every time you work out. But… you shouldn’t.

Why not?

Increased risk of injury—being sidelined when you’re just getting on a roll with your exercise program is no fun. When you do HIIT training, you put a lot of stress on your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Cleary, overdoing it with these intense workouts can be a recipe for disaster if you’re not careful. So, stick to doing a HIIT workout no more than 3 times a week to err on the side of caution.

Less enjoyment—scientists say that while HIIT training is an excellent way to burn off excess body fat, it’s not necessarily the most fun option when it comes to exercise choices. And, less enjoyment means you may be less likely to complete your workouts or may tend to skip them altogether. So, tempering these workouts with steady state cardio in between is a great way to get it done yet keep the fire alive.

The bottom line is that while high-intensity exercise is really good for you and you can reap a host of benefits, overdoing it can be extremely bad. You may not notice it right away, but you can be setting yourself up for long-term injuries and stressing joints, ligaments, and tendons that, over time, may cause you a lot of problems. Plus, overtraining in general is just not a good idea. It’s best to balance your workouts with a combination of HIIT, steady state cardio, stretching, and resistance training.

Try this 25-Minute HIIT Workout

Begin with a gentle warm up for 5 minutes. Try walking or a gentle jog. Once warmed up, you’ll perform sprints either on a treadmill or outside. When finished, don’t forget to cool down again by walking slowly for about 5 minutes.

  • Warm up for 5 minutes
  • Run fast for 30 seconds
  • Walk slowly for 2 minutes
  • Run fast for 30 seconds
  • Walk slowly for 2 minutes
  • Run fast for 30 seconds
  • Walk slowly for 2 minutes
  • Run fast for 30 seconds
  • Walk slowly for 2 minutes
  • Run fast for 30 seconds
  • Walk slowly for 2 minutes
  • Run fast for 30 seconds
  • Walk slowly for 2 minutes
  • Cool down for 5 minutes